CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After partisan squabbles threatened to make a lion of this week's special legislative session, quick votes and little discussion sent the extra period out like a lamb.
The House rapidly approved measures regarding magistrate pay and money from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office Thursday, voting to forgo normal rules to finish work on the legislation.
The votes and discussion took less than 30 minutes. Both political parties blamed the other for not taking up the bills during the regular session.
"We could have been through this yesterday, if they were not insistent on a pay raise for elected officials," said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said there were legitimate questions on both sides. Boggs and Armstead met early Thursday, and Boggs said they agreed those concerns were addressed and it was time to end the session.
"The minority leader and I had talked early this morning, and we certainly wanted to leave quickly," Boggs said. "I think it was really their call: if they wanted to stay an extra day, that was up to them. But we were ready to leave yesterday."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Wednesday afternoon he was calling a special session so lawmakers could take up several bills that failed to pass during the regular session.
The House and Senate approved measures to create a special tax district in Morgantown for construction of a baseball field and other projects, as well as a bill sending more money to the workers' compensation fund for volunteer fire departments.
But bills concerning pay for magistrates and money from the Attorney General's office seemingly gave Democrats and Republicans in the House heartburn.
The GOP voted against expediting a bill that would increase pay for magistrates and their staffs in six counties. It also calls for a study of statewide magistrate pay and workload with a goal of eventually eliminating the tiered pay structure so every magistrate makes $57,500 a year.
Democrats nixed speeding up action on a bill that moved $7.4 million from the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Fund to accounts for various other purposes, including behavioral health services, higher education, and technology improvements for Morrisey's office.
Armstead said delegates didn't receive the bills from the Governor's Office until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and the GOP wanted more time to review.
"Make no mistake about it: if the governor's going to run a special session, it's incumbent on him and his office to prepare these bills ahead of time and get them to members to look at if they want a suspension. And that wasn't done in this case," Armstead said.